TAMPA, Fla. — As concerns grow over the risk of in-person instruction, hundreds of teacher positions remain open as children return to class for the 2020-2021 school year.
Hillsborough County Schools is one of the largest school districts in the Tampa Bay area and the seventh-largest school district in the country. As of the close of business on Wednesday, August 26, there were 429 instructional positions still open. That's compared to 335 positions as of August 9, 2019.
The number of open instructional positions changed throughout the day as administrators continued to hire those positions for Hillsborough Schools.
In Pinellas County Schools, the district's jobs board reflected 90 open instructional positions as of the close of business on Wednesday, August 26. That's compared to 39 teacher vacancies reported on August 9, 2019.
In Polk County, they saw a drop in open positions. In 2019, the district had 125 open instructional jobs as of August 9, 2019. In the same period of time last year, there were 110 open instructional positions.
Pasco County Schools also reported a drop in teacher vacancies. As of August 9, 2019, there were 136 vacancies. This year, there are just under 100 teacher positions still open. There are also 38 paraprofessional positions open and 37 bus drivers still needed.
The Manatee County School District said they are not looking to hire any additional teachers or paraprofessionals until after the first 10 days of school, which is Friday, August 28. That allows school officials to get a consistent attendance number to report to the state.
However, Manatee County Schools is still looking to hire 22 bus driver positions.
ABC Action News is still making calls on the number of open instructional positions in Sarasota County Schools.
While some teachers are posting on teacher's union Facebook pages that they are anxious to return to in-person teaching, others tell ABC Action News it's just not worth the risk.
Shannon Lee was about to start her 14th year as an educator with the Hillsborough County School District. Lee resigned two weeks ago after concerns about the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
She cares for her 72-year old mother, who is in a high-risk age group for COVID-19, and also cares for her daughters and two grandchildren.
"As things just started to kind of unravel, I realized that I just really wasn't going to feel safe and secure with over 2,000 people on a campus every single day," Lee said.
She said she heard a consistent message from top leaders and had to make the tough decision to leave.
"They kept saying, this is what it is, you do what's best for your family," Lee said. "And after that last time, I was like, you guys, you are right. I've got to do what's best for me and my family."
Lee has now started her own business to assist parents with eLearning and childcare, called Lee's Learning Loft.